Criticizing Lamin Demba’s Response to UDP’s Statement:

In early September 2021, Gambian President Adama Barrow’s National People’s Party (NPP) announced the formation of a political coalition with ex-president Yahya Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC). The two parties announced the coalition ahead of the 2021 general elections slated for December of the same year. The announcement and the formation of coalition itself also opened the possibility of former President Yahya Jammeh coming back into the country from Equatorial Guinea where he has been in exile since January 2017 when he was ousted after Adama Barrow, the candidate for the seven opposition parties under the C2016won the 2016 elections. Inevitably, the announcement caused much shock in many quarters. The immediate reaction came from the United Democratic (UDP), the main party that formed the C2016 that sponsored President Adama Barrow candidature in 2016. Barrow had himself been the treasurer of the UDP but he resigned his position and membership to contest as the coalition’s flag-bearer. Following the announcement, Ousainou Darboe of the UDP released a statement criticizing the surprise coalition. In a quick rejoinder, the NPP spokesperson Lamin Sulayman Demba released a statement criticizing the Darboe’s reaction. This paper is a critique of Demba’s response for failure to respond to the accusations of betrayal, the failure by Barrow to review the constitution, the untrustworthiness of Yahya Jammeh, the dishonesty of Barrow, and the need to allow the TRRC to complete its mandate.

The very first problem with Demba’s response to Darboe is his failure to address the issue of betrayal that the latter mentioned. Darboe had accused President Adama Barrow and his NPP of betraying the Gambian people through entering a coalition with the APRC of Yahya Jammeh. Darboe’s position was informed by the historical fact that the coalition that sent Barrow to power was borne out of the need to end Jammeh’s 22 years of autocracy. The opposition leaders therefore put aside their personal and party interests and settled on Barrow to as the compromised candidate. The objective was to review the constitution and to return The Gambia to democracy. The coalition with Jammeh’s APRC is therefore a demeaning insult to the opposition leaders of C2016 and the people of The Gambia for their sacrifice to end Jammeh’s dictatorship. Barrow has shown the people of The Gambia contempt by entering intoa coalition with the very person that the Gambians rejected and united to defeat. While defending himself, Demba made reference to reconciliation in a bid to hide from the raw betrayal that Barrow and the NPP have demonstrated. Unfortunately for Demba and his colleagues at the NPP, no amount of sanitization will change the fact that Barrow and the NPP are nothing more than ungrateful traitors to the past sacrifices, the future and aspirations of The Gambia. 

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In addition, Demba failed to address the constitutional review that the C2016 and Barrow promised The Gambia as raised by Ousainou Darboe of the UDP. The constitutional review for The Gambia was one of the major promises that the C2016 made to the people of The Gambia. During his reign, Yahya Jammeh had abused the old constitution to repress political dissent and to stifle divergent views. Many human rights violations and killings took place in blatant abuse of power by Jammeh. Barrow’s presidency was supposed to reverse those horrors by reviewing the constitution to ensure that no such cases arose ever again. In failing to review the constitution, Adama Barrow has demonstrated that he is no different from the Jammeh. He has demonstrated absolute greed for power by failing to entrench the rule of law and respect for institutions into the constitution. Adama Barrow therefore only comes across as someone who opposed Jammeh for selfish reasons and when he was placed in position to change the laws, he used them for his selfish gratification for appetite for unchecked power. Adama Barrow is therefore a reincarnation of Yahya Jammeh in a different skin, seeking to maintain the status quo for his selfish goals of suppressing dissenting voices.

Furthermore, Demba failed to respond to Darboe’s accusations that Yahya Jammeh could not be trusted with bringing any  change to the country. According to Darboe, and correctly so, the repressive rule of Yahya Jammeh was the raison d’etre for the C2016 coming into existence to oust the latter. In getting into a coalition with the same individual that had led to the C2016, Barrow is gambling with the people of The Gambia by making an agreement with the same person who had suppressed them. President Barrow is therefore either very naïve or he has simply revealed that he shares the same approach to leadership with Jammeh. At the end however, it is only naivety that could trust Jammeh, a man who had been to power for 22 years and was only ousted after the threat of military intervention by the ECOWAS. Demba failed to show any reason why any Gambian would trust any coalition with Jammeh as part of it to bring any change to The Gambia. 

Besides, Demba failed to respond to Darboe’s accusation of President Barrow of dishonesty in his alliance with the APRC. In his statement, Darboe had accused Barrow of hoodwinking APRC supporters to vote for him and had unequivocally stated that Barrow had “…no power or intention to deliver on his promises…” as he was “…not a partner to be trusted…” In his response, Demba circumvented the trust issue and dwelt on the need for reconciliation. A simple review of the past five years’ events however reveals that there is no reason whatsoever to trust President Adama Barrow. His failure to honor the C2016 agreement to resign after three years demonstrated absolute dishonor. Despite his well-choreographed response, Demba was unable to find a single reason to show that Barrow could be trusted. In his failure to do so, Demba indicated that even he could not trust Barrow. His defense of the coalition is therefore pure public relations that no one else should dare trust.

Last, Demba failed to respond to Darboe’s demand that the TRRC should have been allowed to complete its work and to submit its report before any coalition cooperation could be considered with Yahya Jammeh. Instead, Demba stressed the importance of reconciliation with no reference whatsoever to the cause for the need for reconciliation: Jammeh. It is impossible to talk about reconciliation without the perpetrator of the past atrocities first apologizing. Real reconciliation in The Gambia is only possible after the TRRC completes its mandate and its report published for public consumption. Only then can The Gambians choose to forgive Jammeh for his atrocities. Demba therefore undermined the process of reconciliation by justifying the inclusion of the perpetrator in the formation of the next government. Demba ought to have justified the NPP’s actions with regard to the reconciliation process. Any failure to do so was an arrogant insult to the reconciliation process.

Musa VAL Banja

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